Thingyan is the Burmese New Year Water Festival and usually falls around mid-April.
It is a Buddhist festival celebrated over a period of four to five days finishing in the new year. New Year is the time for people to cleanse themselves of the bad deeds they might have collected during the year and look forward to a better life. The dates of the festival are observed as the most important public holidays throughout Myanmar and are part of the summer holidays at the end of the government school year. Water throwing or dousing one another from any shapes or form of vessel or devices that delivers water is the distinguishing feature of this festival. Thingyan is comparable to other new year festivals in Theravada Buddhist areas of Southeast Asia such as Lao New Year, Cambodia New Year and Songkran in Thailand.
Day one of the water festival called “A-Jo-Nae” in Myanmar Language. The first day of the water festival is decided to religious activities and marks the eve of the New Year. Day two of the water festival- called “A-Ja-Nae” in Myanmar language. The fun and frolic of the water festival starts on this day. Burmese people believe that on this day god (the king of Nat spirits) leaves heaven and comes down to earth. Traditionally, people used to gently sprinkle water on one another using a bowl and sprigs and the water was meant to wash away our sins of the previous year. However, nowadays people use whatever they can (water guns, buckets, water balloons, fire hoses, bamboo syringes) find to throw water and have fun. On this day the roads get crowded with people dancing, singing and having water fights and almost anyone in the street is a target for water.
Day three which is called “A-Je-Nae” in Myanmar language. The water festival continue till the late hours of the night. Day four which is called “A-De-Nae” in Myanmar language. Burmese people believe that god returns to heaven on this day and it marks the end of the water festival.
Day Five - The Myanmar New Year Day. Myanmar people celebrate this day by visiting their elderly relatives and do good deeds by cutting their nails and washing their hair. At some home for aged centres, some volunteering people do a hair washing to the elderly. Burmese also carry out merit making activities like releasing fish into large rivers. According to Buddhist beliefs, releasing birds also earns you merit. It can also symbolize letting go of troubles. People make traditional Thingyan snacks and share with neighbours. One of the famous snacks is called “Mote-Lone-Yay- Baw”. It is a floating rice dough ball which had been boiled. In the centre, it has a piece of jaggery and served with coconut shreds.
On new year day, some people visit to monasteries and pagodas to offer food, flowers, candles, scented sticks, etc in order to make good deeds.
Written by: May Thu Naing (Myanmar Teacher)
Padauk Flower Illustration Art By : Fiona Daly (Nursery B Teacher)